Interns’ cashback

Since London Freelance Branch initiated the NUJ Cashback for Interns campaign, launched in early October, it has been causing quite a stir in the media world - in for example, Media Guardian (http://interns.notlong.com). Several former interns have already come forward to claim their earnings, with NUJ assistance. Fiona O'Cleirigh, one of the Cashback for Interns instigators, appeals to exploited interns to assert their rights.

DO YOU know anyone who has worked as a media intern in the last six years? If so, the NUJ may be able to help them claim back the National Minimum Wage (NMW). They could be entitled to up to £237 for every 40-hour week of the internship, if 21 or over.

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Nicola Vetta with BECTU's Assistant General Secretary Martin Spence

The NUJ is launching a campaign to ensure that those starting out in the industry are paid a basic minimum wage. Anyone who has completed an internship within the last three months can claim the NMW through an Employment Tribunal, while in the county court there is a six-year limit. NMW provisions do not apply to students on work experience placements, however.

The move to pursue the NMW is in line with the ruling of Reading Employment Tribunal in November 2009, which found in favour of a film production intern. Nicola Vetta had agreed to work for expenses only. She later decided, with the help of the Broadcast, Entertainment and Cinema trade union BECTU, to claim back-dated NMW after the internship ended. The tribunal recognised that Vetta had been engaged as a worker, regardless of being designated an intern.

The NUJ would like to help other interns claim their entitlement, in conjunction with the union's legal team. An agreement to work for nothing, whether written or oral, will not affect an intern's statutory entitlement to be paid.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear says: "A campaign drawing together trade unions and other organisations opposed to this cheap labour merry-go-round is now essential and we will play our part in the campaign to bring exploitative employers to book."

Paid internships can provide valuable experience for those starting out in the industry, without exploitation. NUJ London Freelance Branch hopes to ensure that all future internships fall into this category. If you are an intern and would like the Union's assistance in claiming wages you may be owed, email interns@londonfreelance.org

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